I’m awake in a lonely room

In which I mourn live theater and my emotional wellbeing.

I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands recently. Anyone else? And while many of us seem to be more productive than ever, using social distancing as an excuse to finally move forward on creative projects, I have mostly been sitting around watching YouTube videos and trying not to scream. Which I think counts as self-care, so I will not be shamed for it! I couldn’t get my act together to write a newsletter earlier in the week — I wasn’t sure what to say. And so I made this playlist, because I miss theater and human contact, almost equally. You can listen to it on Spotify, and read my annotations below.

“Lonely Room” (from Oklahoma!). I mean… mood. Patrick Vaill felt like the right way to start this playlist. Any playlist, really.

“Greenfinch and Linnet Bird” (from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street). This isn’t exactly my favorite song from Sweeney Todd — I included that one later on the list — but it’s one of Sondheim’s best about captivity. Teach me to be more adaptive, please!

“Stay With Me” (from Into the Woods). This is an Into the Woods-heavy playlist, because, well, I made it. There are just so many songs from this show that work for our current moment! “Don’t you know what’s out in there in the world?” Yes, which is why I’m self-isolating. We are all Rapunzel.

“Waiting for Life” (from Once on This Island). I tried to group the playlist into thematic categories throughout. Thus begins the “I Want” section, with Ti Moune singing about how much she wants to get the fuck out. Relatable!

“In My Own Little Corner” (from Cinderella). Did I mention categories? How about a sub-category? That’s right. It’s the princesses! Anyway, I have definitely felt like Cinderella over the past week, except I’m cleaning much less.

“Out There” (from The Hunchback of Notre Dame). OK, Quasimodo isn’t a princess, but like, close enough. And either way, we’ve reached the sub-sub-category of Disney. (Friends, I put… too much thought into this.) Anyway, despite being safe behind these windows and these parapets of stone, I am struggling!

“Part of Your World” (from The Little Mermaid). I started crying as soon as I tried to explain this song choice. You get it. Moving on.

“When Will My Life Begin?” (from Tangled). Yes, I cheated. It’s a movie musical, so this isn’t actually a showtune. But given that this song became a quarantine meme on Twitter — and because I already had a Disney section of the playlist — it only felt right.

“Home” (from Beauty and the Beast). I wasn’t sure about this one, since being home is the problem right now. But: “Am I here for a day or forever?” Preach, Belle.

“Santa Fe” (from Newsies). Much like Jack, I need space and fresh air.

“If I Had a Fine White Horse” (from The Secret Garden). And much like Martha, inside I’ll have to stay!

“Anything But Lonely” (from Aspects of Love). I confess that I’m not an Aspects of Love fan, but I couldn’t resist a song that opens with “anything but lonely, anything but empty rooms.” Points were made!

“Around the World” (from Grey Gardens). No one practiced social distancing quite like the Beales of Grey Gardens.

“I Read” (from Passion). OK, Fosca is also a social distancing icon.

“Our Little World” (from Into the Woods). More Into the Woods! Here’s everyone’s favorite song — you know, the one they only included in the highly maligned revival. But it felt like the right way to kick off this thematic category of “isolating with someone else.”

“I Will Never Leave You” (from Side Show). I mean, I realize that Daisy and Violet didn’t exactly have much choice in the matter. Nevertheless!

“Last Night of the World” (from Miss Saigon). When you’re in love and no one else understands, it can feel like you’re the only two people in the world. And when you’re in love and quarantined together, it’s probably kind of the same? (This is the sub-category of “isolating with someone you’re in love with.”)

“Only Us” (from Dear Evan Hansen). See above. Nobody else but the two of us here, indeed!

“You Walk With Me” (from The Full Monty). One of the most underrated Broadway love songs of all time. This song always makes me cry, and it’s perfect for the walks I’ve been taking recently. By myself.

“I Am My Own Best Friend” (from Chicago). Baby’s alive! But baby’s alone. (I’m baby.)

“Sitting Becalmed in the Lee of Cuttyhunk” (from A New Brain). If I hadn’t included a deep-cut Bill Finn song on here, I would never have been able to forgive myself. Also: “Here I am, detestor of small spaces. Unable to breathe, I turn loquacious.”

“Wig in a Box” (from Hedwig and the Angry Inch). I don’t know, this song just makes me think about making your own fun in challenging times. And the strangest things do seem suddenly routine.

“On My Own” (from Les Misérables). Can you believe I almost forgot to include this classic? If there is a better song about social distancing walks, I don’t know it.

“Alone in the Universe” (from Seussical). On the one hand, Seussical is a supremely silly show. On the other hand, I am absolutely getting emotional thinking about closing my eyes and flying to Solla Sollew. We are all so tender and isolated right now!

“I Don’t Need a Roof” (from Big Fish). I’ll be honest: I’m not sure this one fits. I just really like it. But it’s a song about how it doesn’t matter where you’re sheltering in place if you’re sheltering in place with the person you love.

“A House Is Not a Home” (from Promises, Promises). This one is probably more apt, as it’s about sheltering in place without the person you love. We’re not meant to live alone, OK? (Incidentally, have you been following Cheno’s quarantine content? Truly exceptional work.)

“If I Have to Live Alone” (from The Baker’s Wife). We’re in the living alone section of the playlist. This song felt appropriate.

“Sonya Alone” (from Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812). “I will stand here right outside your door” because social distancing.

“You Learn to Live Without” (from If/Then). When I read the lyrics to this song — which is about grieving the death of a spouse — I was honestly shocked at how perfectly they fit our current situation. Because while the context is vastly different, the themes of personal sacrifice and adjustment to dramatically different circumstances is… relatable.

“Losing My Mind” (from Follies). I’m not sure who the “you” is in my quarantine playlist-specific inclusion of this song. Coronavirus? It’s like I’m losing my mind.

“Johanna” (from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street). See, I told you I’d make room for the best Sweeney Todd song. Isolation, loneliness, longing, city on fire. It’s all here.

“No One Is Alone” (from Into the Woods). It’s not just a comforting reminder at a time when the feeling of being alone is overwhelming — it’s also a reminder of how important our individual choices are. There is nothing like a pandemic to show us how connected we are, for better and for worse. “You move just a finger, say the slightest word, something’s bound to linger, be heard.” Anyway, I’m weeping again.

“Edges of the World” (from Fun Home). Yeah, this was kind of a dark choice for the playlist, but uh, welcome to my mind after a week alone in a studio apartment. It’s a constant push-and-pull between falling into nothingness and flying into something so sublime.

“Memory” (from Cats). I wanted to final arc of this playlist to be something approaching hopeful. I kept it pretty bittersweet, because, well. But is there anything more resonant than belting “touch me” right now?

“Wicked Little Town (Tommy Gnosis Version)” (from Hedwig and the Angry Inch). Personally, I find the lack of mystical design to be comforting, but your mileage may vary.

“Answer Me” (from The Band’s Visit). God, this song was gutting every time I saw The Band’s Visit, and it’s that much more gutting now. “That’s the sound of longing.”

“Being Alive” (from Company). “But alone is alone, not alive!” Add ‘em up, Bobby, fuck. (On a personal note, Company was the last show I saw before the Broadway shutdown, and… ouch.)

“Some Other Time” (from On the Town). This song always hits hard. When you’re not sure when you’re going to be able to see and hold your loved ones again, it hits really hard. Oh, well!

“Time Heals Everything” (from Mack & Mabel). Sticking with the theme of time and the uncertainty of it all. When will life be back to normal? Some Tuesday, Thursday, April, August, Autumn, Winter, next year, some year…

“Hold On” (from The Secret Garden). Seriously, though, we need some hope now. We deserve hope. And so: “It’s the storm, not you, that’s bound to blow away.”

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” (from Carousel). And speaking of storms, “at the end of a storm, there’s a golden sky.” The overall message of this song is also particularly useful during a time of occasionally devastating isolation.

“We’ll Meet Tomorrow” (from Titanic). I probably should have thought twice before including this song during the inspirational section of the playlist, but it’s a lovely sentiment if you ignore what happened to the passengers on the Titanic.

“Home” (The Wiz). As I said with the other “Home” on this list, I wasn’t sure about including a song about longing for home when we’re all so homebound. But if you think of “home” as the world as we know it — a reprieve from the upside-down reality we’ve found ourselves in — it certainly fits.

“Light” (from Next to Normal). And this felt like the right way to end things. You find some way to survive! At this point, I think the best we can hope for is not going back to normal, but finding something next to normal. And with that in mind, there will be light.

Photo via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.